Vivid green gemstones with a fascinating glow from within, emeralds are one of the ‘big four’, the four precious gemstones that comprise a majority of the world’s fine jewelry. Ranging from mint green hues to deeper forest greens, these gemstones are a widely popular choice for their beautiful, soothing color. In this blog, we will outline the distinguishing features of emeralds.
What are Emeralds?
Emeralds are primarily green gemstones that hail from the mineral group known as Beryls. As the green variety of Beryl, Emerald gets its color from traces of chromium and in some cases, vanadium. While beryls come in colorless and other colored varieties as well, Emerald remains the most popular variant due to its verdant green hues.
From a technical viewpoint, Emeralds have a rating between 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale, a little less than its ‘big four’ precious gemstone siblings of sapphire,rubies and diamonds. Emeralds are also found to have a lot of inclusions, which makes it slightly more vulnerable than its counterparts and more prone to breakage during extraction and cutting. Therefore, larger, unblemished specimens of emeralds sometimes fetch the highest price per carat according to the 4C’s, color, cut, clarity and carat size.
Since ancient times, emeralds were one of the most sought after precious gemstones. The word is derived from the Latin word esmeralda or smaragdos in Greek which meant ‘green gem’ Emeralds were found in vast quantities in ancient Egypt. It has been long believed that Cleopatra was very fond of these green gemstones. Both the Roman and Byzantine Empires used the reserves in Egypt for themselves as well. Reserves were also found in India, whereby emeralds were extensively used in jewelry by Mughal royalty. An example is the inscripted Mogul Mughal Emerald, one of the largest emerald specimens in the world. The use of emeralds was not limited to royalty, as they were a popular stone to use in lapidaries as the soothing green color would be used to help improve eye strain while taking a break from work.
Types of Emeralds
While emeralds themselves are a variety of the mineral beryl, they yield a natural variety known as trapiche emeralds. They get their name from the Spanish term trapiche which refers to a sugar mill. The dark wheel-like pattern on these emeralds resembles the grinding wheel used in the sugar mills, hence the name. Like star rubies and sapphires, this is an exception wherein inclusions cause the formation of a pattern which is rare and therefore sought after.
Apart from trapiche emeralds, there are no other natural varieties of emeralds that exist. They have, however, often been compared to and confused with peridots, green tourmalines and a variety of garnets known as Tsavorites. These stones are often used as cheaper, natural alternatives to emeralds. Since emeralds without inclusions are often rare and sometimes more expensive than diamonds, synthetic emeralds were introduced in order to mimic more transparent and blemishless varieties of emeralds. However, even synthetic or lab-made emeralds are sometimes made to have inclusions to make them seem natural, but trained gemologist know how to tell if an emerald is real with ease.
Emeralds come from a range of areas all over the globe, but Colombia remains the foremost producers of emeralds, with a huge demand for Colombian emeralds. Next to Colombia stands Zambia as the second best source of emeralds. All other locations include deposits in Brazil, many parts of the USA, Canada, Afghanistan, Pakistan, many countries in East and South Africa including Madagascar, Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, France, Germany, Italy and Russia to name a few.
As mentioned before, flawless emeralds are rare. A common treatment to improve the appearance of internally flawed and heavily included emeralds is to use an oil or resin filling that fills in cracks within the specimen to conceal them. This not only affects the clarity of the stones, but also makes them more stable to use in fine jewelry as they are less prone to any further breakage. While this treatment can not be seen by the naked eye, closer inspection may reveal traces of oil within the stone, proving that it has been treated.
At Galt and Bro, we hand pick each emerald and test it for any such treatments. We strive to provide the best balance of clarity, saturation and cut, and above all, we make sure it’s natural. If you are seeking a natural emerald you may choose one from our loose gemstones catalogue. If you want a gem set into jewelry, you may consult us on our personalized creations page.